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Uber hoped to celebrate a big payday. Instead, a sinking stock and more protests

Suhauna Hussain and Johana Bhuiyan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

In its early years, Uber grew rapidly, rendering taxis obsolete with its app-enabled ride service. Fueled by billions of dollars of venture capital, brash co-founder and former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick wasn't shy about his ambition to upend the world of transportation entirely.

Current Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi has indicated he's trying to rein in the company's spending, as he did its out-of-control culture. Since Uber went public, Khosrowshahi has made significant cuts to the company's workforce, laying off about 400 employees in the marketing department in July and another 400 in September.

"We are not doing this for Wall Street," Khosrowshahi wrote in an email to staff in September. "We are doing this for Uber."

Despite the bumpy start, some early investors remain confident in Uber's trajectory, including Shawn Carolan of Menlo Ventures, who tweeted that it was an "easy choice" to hold.

Investor Jason Calacanis told the Los Angeles Times he doesn't plan to sell anytime soon, then shared an earlier tweet noting an uptick in Uber's rides and deliveries and a downturn in the company's losses, accompanied by a short "Star Wars" clip showing Luke Skywalker patiently waiting until the last moment to destroy the Death Star.

"Wait for it," he urged Khosrowshahi on Twitter. "Stay on target."

 

Others, including Bradley Tusk, posted publicly about their desire to offload shares. Tusk said he didn't sell at a loss, but was surprised to see shares trading for prices below the $33 per share that Softbank paid when it became the majority shareholder in Uber in January 2018.

"If you're buying Uber, you believe in the future of the company -- because the present of the company is a disaster," Tusk said. "You have to believe in their ability to do great things. You have to believe they can execute it."

A spokesperson declined to comment. Camp did not respond to requests for comment. Benchmark Capital, which previously sold about 15% of its holdings in Uber to Softbank and other buyers for $900 million in January 2018, did not respond to requests for comment.

While a company's initial public offering is a landmark moment, regulations require certain stockholders to wait six months after an IPO to actually unload their shares. Traditionally, that has made the end of the lockup period the real red-letter day for employees -- the day when the life-changing, buy-a-house-and-a-boat money came through.

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